I’m on a visit to Maranello for a few days organised by Shell and last night had the chance to go into the Gestione Sportiva, where we spoke with Matteo Binotto, who is in charge of the engine department.
I was last there about eight or nine years ago and it has shrunk a bit in the interim with the engine restrictions in place there is no need for as many people – or engines – as in the Schumacher days.
Roughly half of the space is dedicated to building the race engines for the Scuderia as well as for Sauber and Toro Rosso, their customers. each driver gets eight engines so that’s three lots of 16 engines that need to be built.
And the other half is devoted to developments. Again with the engine restriction rules there isn’t much that they can do on the development side as the engines are frozen, but they can work on some areas, including work on fuel and lubricants. You can really see how this has saved money compared to the old days. Combine that with no testing and that’s a massive chunk of budget saved.
There was a technician working on a block in the development department, fine tuning a piston ring and doing so with the intensity of a watch maker. The guy was so into his job, it was great to see.
The eight engines allocated to a driver have to last a whole season. Ferrari tend to like to get one through its life early on so that they can take it back to Maranello and take it apart to analyse wear and assess reliability issues. Small changes are allowed during the season on the grounds of reliability if the cause is genuine. They are about to do that to one engine which has been to six races already.
There is a small FIA seal on the engine, which is fitted when an engine makes its first appearance at the track and this seal cannot be broken or the engine becomes ineligible. It’s quite tight now with 19 races to make eight engines last. They do three races each plus three Friday practice days.
Nothing can be changed internally and not even water pumps or oil pumps. They can only work on things like injector rails, clutches.
Everything was very open, although when I asked Binotto, who was once Schumacher’s track engineer, how Ferrari are doing on power loss – in other words how much power does an engine lose between its first race and the end of its third, he would only say, “We were always the best on that and we are still the best,”